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Published: Friday January 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday April 22, 2013 MYT 6:24:56 PM

Baffling search for the truth

Is it the number of ‘followers’ that determine political success?

Working in the media industry, being an occasional blogger and having a love-hate relationship with my Twitter account, I am exposed to all sorts of news and stories from both mainstream and the alternative portals available.

My wise and non-judgmental mother constantly reminds me that there are always two sides of the story, so I should stop, think, hold my tongue and still my mind before commenting, passing a remark or sharing a piece of news, especially if it’s via social media.

A group of media friends and I were discussing the political scene in our country and the involvement of some local “celebrities” (a term I find quite overused to be honest) who have openly shown support for a particular party.

Some media person rang me up to get my views on this. I recall telling him that a “celebrity” is entitled to his or her opinion, and if he/she is comfortable sharing this with others publicy, so be it.

He tried to persuade me to see which side of the fence I was on. I ended the interview on a light note, saying “Undi itu rahsia” (Your vote is a secret?)

After putting down the phone, his question triggered the patriotic side of me. Yes. Who do I favour?

In recent years, I seem to have a more intense interest in what’s happening around me. I take more effort in knowing who my community leaders are and to listen, observe and judge for myself the work they’ve accomplished (or not).

Perhaps it’s motherhood that has spurt my concern about the neighbourhood and society that my children are growing up in, or perhaps it’s because I am getting a little bit confused, slightly annoyed and highly disturbed over how some things are operating of late.

It doesn’t help that I have to read and hear news on political spats, some of which I find rather amusing if not comical.

Social media is now playing an important role in politics. It is no longer enough for candidates to just shake some hands, kiss and hold a baby or two, or display their faces on giant billboards and posters. No siree.

According to Zachary Moffatt, the digital director for the Romney campaign for the US presidential election last year, “the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to win. The more people who interact with Mitt, the more likely he is to win. Social (media) extends and amplifies this.”

Yes. Social media is able to do just that.

Part of the pull of social media, especially the “big three” (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), is that the average Joe/Jane on the street, with little or no advanced computer skills, can have success using them (my dad is living proof of this).

With a gadget as nifty as a smartphone, content can be easily created, accessed and intertwined. Links of videos can be easily embedded and shared on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, and now, Twitter has made our micro-blogging fascination even more expandable by allowing our tweets to appear on our FB page.

Basically, a huge number of folk can be easily contacted via a variety of services provided by social media and you don’t have to be “someone” to be “someone” on social media.

The traditional socioeconomic barriers seem to be weakened too, thanks to this.

Now what’s frightening is the content of news being uploaded, downloaded, shared, retweeted and so forth. What is the truth? Who is telling us the right thing? With so much information disseminated, how are we to know what’s correct, and what has been twisted.

I was reading this article on CNN’s website about a “Chinese Water Army” phenomenon. This term refers to the large number of Chinese online writers who are paid a sum of money to write opinion and reviews. Apparently, in North America, this is also commonly referred to as Astroturfing, in which an organisation mimics a grassroots movement by paying people to “spontaneously” support their position.

When someone suggested that this strategy is common and could happen even in a relatively small country like Malaysia, I was baffled.

“No lah. Where got people want to pay for support one?” (Why is it, when I talk about politics with my friends, I automatically have this Manglish accent?)

“Eh…hello! Now ah… people can buy fans and followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram you know!” another pal retorts (Ok, now I know why).

Yeah. That’s true.

I’ve had offers from companies who provide services to increase my fan/followers on my social media platforms for a fee. I declined. I’d rather have real followers who genuinely want to “follow” me.

I mean, why would anyone pay a fee to get more followers?

Apparently, having a large following deems you popular and amplifies the perception that you are more “likeable”. Some companies use that as a benchmark on a celebrity’s “worth” — but that’s another story. And yes, even politicians have jumped on this new media platform.

So coming back. With all the different stories I hear and read — and not being sure about who and what to believe anymore, I can only hope that the campaign period will be long enough for me to get to really know my ADUN and MP candidates, so I can make a wise choice when exercising my right to vote. God willing.

Daphne is bewildered that some armchair critics are not even registerd voters! She hopes our dear PM gives an indication to when the general election will take place so that she can apply for leave and book a cheap flight back home to vote.

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Opinion, Daphne Iking

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